President of the NYC Park Advocates, Geoffrey Croft, talks about some of the more pressing issue related to city parks.
On WBAI's The Morning Show, Croft address the $150 million allocated by the de Blasio administration for 'anchor' parks, deemed as such because of their strong role in anchoring a given community--$30 million per a park in each borough. The funding is supposed to equalize the disparity among city parks, as maintenance has dropped considerably for decades, predominantly affecting parks in poorer neighborhoods--many of color. Croft believes the money is just a drop in the bucked as the entire parks system actually needs between $20-40 billion, and sees this as proof the administration remains unfocused when it comes to open space and communities. He said it's very typical of both the mayor and City Council to allocate capital funds, then walk away, ignoring upkeep and maintenance.
This is especially important in the face of all the private park conservancies, which under previous Mayor Bloomberg, evolved into entities which superseded city responsibility of parks--rather than working as supplemental funding. The enormous financial discrepancies in money and influence is of great concern, Croft said. They are supposed to be public parks, but 99% don't get that kind of funding and this practice should be illegal.
Another glaring example of this kind of discrepancy is the high cost for tennis permit fees, which was raised by the Bloomberg administration from $50 to $200--the highest fees for any sports activity. Croft believes this is even more outrageous when done by a "progressive" administration, made even worse by the continued practice that when the public courts are not being used, the city would keep them empty rather than allow people to use them for free. Croft says this is discriminatory, especially because they belong to the public, who paid to construct them, not the city or the Parks Department. He also vociferously challenged the city's 'lie' the fees go towards maintenance of fields and courts, when in reality that money goes into the general fund. City parks receive a fraction of the budget and the reality is many fields and courts are in serious disrepair.
Croft says the biggest concern is the growing violent crime wave in city parks. Based on NYPD data, NYCPA assessed this to be a 23% increase over 9 months-- which comes out to a violent crime per day. He is particularly disgusted with how the city "pretends [this is] not an issue," that they have "not issued a single word as to how they will address" the problem. "They just spin how safe [parks] are, and are totally insensitive to the victims," by minimizing the problem.
Ultimately, Croft thinks de Blasio has his priorities backwards. After all the 'tale of two cities' rhetoric, the fees alone prohibit an average NYer--poor and middle class--from being included in the city's amenities. The City Council and mayor are both responsible and need to be held accountable for the perpetuation of these disparities, Croft says.